Search for the holy grail of campers

Discussion in 'Going to the DARK SIDE' started by MIPeaceDudeCamper, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. MIPeaceDudeCamper

    MIPeaceDudeCamper New Member

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    Well, we just completed our first season of camping with a pop-up. I really liked it and even came to terms with being ripped off by a local dealer and dealing with the ABS/Storage Box Leak Coleman issues. Learned a lot and am really looking forward to camping next season and the season after that. BUT the drawbacks are with 5 little kids we are going to outgrow it (it's a bit crowded now but only notice it during longer rains) and having a shower/toilet would be super.

    So, looking to the future I could see us getting a better TV first (maybe a 4WD SUV that will seat 7) and then moving onto a TT or Hybrid. My question is: I would really like a trailer that tows easily, has few maintenance needs, is roomy yet open and airy, with permanent storage and a full bathroom, so what kind of TTs or Hybrids do folks like? I'm thinking a Trailmanor (used, 2006 and newer).

    When people are looking to move to the dark side how much prep do you usually put in, is looking for years a norm or should I do the leg work over the next several years but then go and look at stuff only when we have the $$ available? Thanks!
     
  2. Hacksaw

    Hacksaw Active Member

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    If you want open and airy you can rule out anything with a hard wall. I know some people think trailmanor are the bees knees but as nice as they are they aren't as spacious as a 12' or larger box...a Fleetwood Avalon is a 16' box,high walled POP up & out condo on wheels with every luxury you will find in a non custom rv. And there I did it again showing I'm a pop up snob ::)

    Screw it let's camp !
     
  3. gooman11

    gooman11 New Member

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    And that's OK with most of us!
     
  4. RockyRoo

    RockyRoo Just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD

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    Just my [2C], but how old are the kids? How big is the critter? I'm thinking you will need to start with either a 3/4 ton Suburban (seats 8 or 9 reasonably comfortably with room for luggage if necessary) or a full size van, preferably 3/4 ton as well. If you want a 10 yr old vehicle, you can always try to find a good Excursion if you can afford the gas, or even an Expedition EL (a few years old), but I bet they are hard to find. After you get the TV taken care of, IMO, start checking out hybrids with 3 beds. Jayco, Roo, Starcraft, Palamino and Shamrock all make various versions of them. Others probably do as well. Along with the 3 queen beds, many of them, not all, have at least the sofa on the slide out. My Roo has the dinette on the slide which gives quite a bit more open floor space, but a sofa at least opens it up some. You can likely find large TT's with bunkhouses that would sleep everyone, but you won't have anywhere near as much open interior room as you will with an HTT (comes in very handy on rainy days). Again, just my opinion, but you will need a good strong TV to carry all the people and pull the trailer, and after having a year with my 233s, anything else (including 30 ft TT's) just feels small inside, and I don't have 5 rug rats bouncing off of walls, just 2 teenagers, the mom, and a 90 Lab.
     
  5. RockyRoo

    RockyRoo Just because you CAN doesn't mean you SHOULD

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    Oh, and I looked for 2 years.
     
  6. MIPeaceDudeCamper

    MIPeaceDudeCamper New Member

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    Thanks, Rocky, those are the kinds of details I was fishing for on my question. The kids are 1, 4, 7, 10 and 13. My hubby and I are in our mid 40s so we also want something that won't be too much work with cranking up and pulling down (the huge condo-Pop ups look intimidating to me). Of course the kids help out lots with set up and packing but less work on vacation is always a good thing. Our current Coleman has the queen and king bed ends and the dinette bed and gaucho pull out bed. There is enough sleep room but the lack of bathroom and small kitchen and table hurt us a lot when the down pours happen. I'd love to watch the weather and not camp in rain but it is MI and we have to plan vacation in advance.

    On the TV, we are using a '04 Honda (with tran fan and mods for safety) now but load all the heavy stuff and bikes onto DH's Ford Focus. At first I was against taking 2 vehicles but we stay within 4 hours drive for camping and I kind of like having 2 vehicles. So maybe just adding a beater pickup truck to haul with could work out too.
     
  7. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    There's a few things you need to consider here. First off, with 5 kids and two adults, it's always going to be pretty tight, unless you're looking at a behemoth of a 5er or something. The next thing you need to consider is the fact that looks can be deceiving. Just as an example...our camping buddies have a 20' TT, which is pretty slick and looks like a camping mansion out there next to our p'up...intuitively, it would seem that such an RV would be perfect for a large or growing family (such as ours)...but in reality, it wouldn't really fit the bill. There's only one queen bed...it can sleep more, but you have to convert the dinette and couch to do so. To boot, any sense of "roominess" is quickly taken up by a "full kitchen", bathroom, "living room" (couch area). 7 people in there at once would feel extremely cramped. Conversely, our 10' p'up, when opened, is actually 4' longer at almost 24' from bunk to bunk and can comfortably sleep 4 without even touching the dinette or gaucho couch. Would 7 feel a bit cramped? You bet...frankly, two feels cramped to me, which is why we spend very little time inside other than sleeping or inclimate weather.

    So, we've determined that you would probably need something longer than a 20' RV...now you have to consider the TV. You have to remember, the longer the trailer, the more wheel base you need on the TV to keep that trailer towing nicely behind you. My wife and I have been discussing similar, and I was talking to some local trailer guys here (while they were doing something else for me) and they said a good rule of thumb is 110" wheel base on the TV for the first 20' of trailer and 4' additional wheel base per add'l foot of trailer beyond the 20 for safe towing. If you're looking at SUVs in the future to tow this RV, you should know that most large SUVs have right in the neighborhood of 110' wheelbase...so anything longer than a 20' trailer, and you'd be looking at moving into a truck or Suburban type of SUV of some kind. It's not just stated capacity you have to look at in a TV...there's a lot of other things involved as well.

    I'm not saying that an SUV can't tow a 30' TT +...there are numerous examples out there that certainly have the capacity to do so. The question is whether it's enjoyable towing, and more importantly, safe. When your wheel base on your TV is too short for the trailer being towed, you introduce sway problems; these can be corrected somewhat with anti-sway bars and the like, but you will most likely have your fair share of white knuckle towing. The trailer guys recommended anti-sway bar for any trailer over 20' in length, even if the vehicle has the appropriate wheel base for the trailer.

    A few other things to keep in mind. With a TT or hybrid, you're going to notice that trailer back there a lot more. You'll not only be towing the trailer, but you'll be "towing the wind" as well...as in you will now have a trailer that sits higher than your TV and introducing drag. You will also notice it a lot more when you're passing (or getting passed) by large vehicles, as their is just a lot more mass on a hard side to catch those side winds.

    You'll also want to consider your camping style. If you primarily camp at RV parks and the like, probably not an issue...but many NPs, SPs, NFS CGs, etc do have length restrictions on RVs. In a nut shell, the bigger the rig, the more restricted you will be in RE to where and how you can camp. I've really not seen this be too big of an issue with p'ups or with your average TT or hybrid...it's a bigger issue once you surpass that 30' mark.

    In RE to feeling roomy and, in particular, "airy"...you're not going to find a TT or hybrid that feels airier than your p'up. That's one of the beautiful things about a p'up...it's pretty much 360* windows all the way around, giving it an airy and open quality. You're simply not going to find that in any hard side RV.
     
  8. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    I would also advise doing some walkthroughs with the whole family to see how you would all really fit and how it would feel...then imagine your other camping gear, etc being in there...you'll get a better feel for how it will be in the field when you're cooped up due to weather, etc.
     
  9. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    I suggest that you start investigating the various categories of trailers and campers now, so you can figure out what you want: MH, TT HTT or a TrailManor. Then zero in on the various models of the trailer to find the right one for you. When the time comes to make a move you'll know what you want and can go after it.

    If these are your criteria:
    a TrailManor would certainly fit. I did a lot of research on trailer characteristics and features before I left my PUP for a different style of trailer. A lot of people who are considering TTs or HTTs make the mistake of looking only at weight. In addition to extra weight you have to look at the amount of drag that high, exposed frontal area creates and how much mileage it, on its own, will cost you. That drag makes your TV works as hard as if you were pulling something heavier than the trailer's actual weight. This becomes more important the farther you want to travel.

    I chose a TrailManor because it could fold down and eliminate that air drag. It is also light for its size because they use a lot of metal/foam sandwiching in the floor and walls. I like long touring trips and the TM saves me several miles per gallon over a TT or HTT. I also wanted hard sides for increased security and the ability to retain warmth longer/easier. I guess the same goes for cooling but I've never used the AC unit except for one two-hour test. The thing tows like a dream. It's smooth and stable. I use a pickup but most TMs can be pulled by smaller vehicles. That's tougher to do with a TT or HTT.

    The TM has a full bathroom (small tub with shower, toilet, sink in a vanity and storage cabinet, all surrounded by hard walls that quickly and easily fold up and down. It has a closet for hanging clothes and numerous drawers and cabinets for clothing and supplies. The larger the model, the more of this storage you have. As for "open and airy", mine has ten windows. I get all of the light and breeze I want. I disagree with Hacksaw's comment for all but the two or three newest, smallest TM models. My 2619 was the smallest model before the introduction of some new ones and it is 23' inside when opened. The biggest model is about 28'. These trailers are all the equivalent of a "highwall" PUP in terms of counter height and appliance size. Finally, many models can be parked in a garage. Not so with TTs or HTTs.

    All trailers have maintenance needs. They might vary a bit from style to style but you have to do the work to keep the trailer in safe, comfortable operating condition. TrailManors have some needs that other styles don't and vice versa. You will have to realign the shells every few years but in my opinion that beats the heck out of dealing with bunk end leaks on an HTT.

    TrailManor's downfall is its price. New ones are expensive! This is why so many people want a used one. There aren't nearly as many used TMs available as PUPs, HTTs or TTs because so many buyers of new ones keep them forever. You have to be constantly vigilant in the used market and be willing to travel (usually out of state) to get one. I watched CraigsList (for every city in and west of the Rockies), Ooodle and all of the RV websites. I also watched the For Sale section of the TrailManor Owners Forum and placed a Wanted ad there. The Wanted ad is what ultimately worked. I drove about 360 miles (round trip) to get mine.

    I hope you are as happy with whatever trailer you eventually choose as I am with my TrailManor.
     
  10. cwolfman13

    cwolfman13 Active Member

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    I just realized I said 4' of wheel base for every add'l foot of trailer...I meant 4".
     
  11. Hacksaw

    Hacksaw Active Member

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    Not trying to start a war with UT but I have to ask the question ...is there a tm with a slide out ? If so then I retract my open and airy statement. My 12' Sunridge has a more open and airy 'feel' than my parents 31' 5er with two slides. They have a queen bed and a gaucho I have 2 kings a full and a gaucho...I've had a Toyota chassis "chinook",a 23' gm class c, a 27' mid height 5er, an 8' PUP and my Sunridge and have never felt less cramped. I have 4 kids (17,15,6,4) dw,myself and an 11 lb pooch just for reference. If the darkside appeals to you so be it ...its still camping

    Screw it let's camp !
     
  12. Unstable_Tripod

    Unstable_Tripod Well, there's your problem!

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    No, there are no TMs with slideouts. The design of the trailer does not allow them. Nonetheless, the trailer is quite open and airy with no feeling of being hemmed in. DW and I have all the space we want. But, if we had kids with us we'd want one of the bigger TM models.
     
  13. Hacksaw

    Hacksaw Active Member

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    After I posted I looked ay the tm website...they are definitely nice units ! But you are right they sure don't give them away ! So if I understand correctly the upper half goes up and out ? So when traveling it is significantly shorter length than when set up ?

    Screw it let's camp !
     
  14. BigBaron

    BigBaron Dreaming of Tommy's chili cheeseburgers...

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    A walk-through is called for IMHO. With 5 kids, I would never think of a TM, but Tripod loves 'em. A big high-wall or TT is what I think, but you have to see what they look like first-hand. You'll know which one is best the instant you see it. ;)
     
  15. Ted S.

    Ted S. Member

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    We do a family of 5 in a Niagara, sometimes we are 7 with no problems. Ages are 1, 6, 15, 19, 19 and us in our 40's.

    We were considering the Avalon, but could not find a new one and could not tow it safely. We tow now with a Honda Pilot, but that may come to an end next year. I don't know if I would tow it more that 1-2 hours. I am looking at full size SUV's and would like to travel further.

    When you consider camping, most of the time you are outdoors. So trailer space is not as big of concern as you might think unless you are in really extreme temperatures. PUPs are unique in that even small PUPs can sleep quite a few.

    My concern is setting up and breaking down as fast as possible. If it is too much work, then we are not going to do weekends. If you get a toilet and shower, you now have blackwater tanks to core for, which means more time hooking up, dumping, flushing, etc.
     
  16. BigBaron

    BigBaron Dreaming of Tommy's chili cheeseburgers...

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    Porta Potti and a privacy tent. Solves everything! ;)
     
  17. Dammitjim

    Dammitjim New Member

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    I'll chime in since I have 5 children myself and even though they are younger than yours (oldest is 7), there might be some things that could shed some light on what you are trying to do.

    I'll start by telling you that we had a PUP first and camped in it 3 times (+2 in our driveway [:)O]). The PUP was wonderful even though it was a 10' PUP with a king and a queen bunk. We had the dinette converted for the twin babies to sleep in a pak 'n play. With that said, the PUP was only used to sleep. I remember it rained on one of the camping trips and it wasn't fun to be stuck there for just 1 hour (here in Florida it usually rains for a short period of time in the afternoon and that's it). It was very inconvenient not to have a bathroom during that time, btw. But that wasn't the reason why we opted to move up from a PUP. We drive a Honda Odyssey and I had to super pack everything! There was no room for anything else but the essentials. I remember the time when we camped by the beach, we couldn't even bring the boogie boards [:!] for the kids. We do bring our bikes (3 mounted on top of the van), a wagon for the twins, a seat for the 3 y/o then and 2 bikes that I took apart and put inside the PUP. I guess you could mount the bikes on top of the PUP, but it scared me to death to do anything to that roof! I could not let go of the thought that we were super limited in space for packing stuff and in our case, we were not going to bring 2 cars even though we will only drive up to 2.5 hours away from home.

    We went for an HTT just because of the openness and convenience. I liked the fact that it was light enough to be pulled with our Odyssey (some might not agree to this and yes, if you got a different TV, this wouldn't be a problem), it has a full bathroom and there is enough room for us to hang out if it rains (even though that has only happened once in 14 camping trips). Our HTT is only 7.5' wide vs the standard 8' and is a 2001 (when they used to make them more simple and lighter). Yeah, there are newer and lighter HTTs but from what I see, the general rule is that the newer they are, the more stuff they put on them making them heavier LOL. Funny story... when we were shopping for the PUP, the salesperson said that we could pull this huge PUP with a slideout with our minivan. I think that PUP must have been 3,200lbs dry and I told her that with that weight, we wouldn't have any room for bringing more stuff like a cast iron pans or DO and she replied asking why I would want to bring stuff like that when the PUP had a microwave! LOL... anyways...

    I don't think I have a point, but I just wanted to say that you need to look around for your many choices. People have already mentioned really good points about PUPs, TMs, HTTs, TTs, but in the end it is just what you'd like to have. Good luck in finding what you are looking for and for now, enjoy each camping trip in your PUP. There is nothing better than spending time with family... especially if you are literally sleeping right next to each other LOL
     
  18. MIPeaceDudeCamper

    MIPeaceDudeCamper New Member

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    Thank you, Dammitjim (I just love saying that name!) for your thoughts. I agree that there are a lot of options and I think things will change over the years as the kids grow and again when we are in our Golden Years (hard to imagine this). Given the results from last Tuesday we will be in a holding pattern for the foreseeable future. Hanging onto what we have, appreciating the heck out of the fact that we even have a camper, and saving whatever extra comes in for an emergency fund. I really like your last statement about all sleeping so close under the same roof, the first trip out, as the others slept and I had insomnia I got a little choked up thinking all the people I care most for in the whole world are under this canvas and crappy ABS roof. Good to be grateful!
     
  19. 94-D2

    94-D2 Happy Campin'

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    I'll chime in even though I know better. You can't go wrong with the Avalon. Full residential commode, shower, holding tanks, microwave, large refer, oven, stove, wrap around dinette, couch, supplemental table, two king bunks, double in dinette, couch bed, sleeps 8-10. Open, airy and immune to rain. Power lift, 8' slide and tandem axle. Tows really nice, 4700 GVRW. what more could you need for a family of seven. Take a look at my photos. It speaks for itself. IMO it beats the heck out of the cavernous hard sides. Then again, I'm also bias and prefer a pup over a TT HT or 5'r. FWIW,


    Happy Campin'


    J
     
  20. yetibiker

    yetibiker Darksider, family adventurer

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    5 kids, a dog and no Chevy Suburban or Ford Expedition EL? There was a time when I thought that a Grand Caravan was more than sufficient for our 4+dog. I even installed adjustable air shocks to keep the rear end off the road when we were all loaded up for a weekend.

    When DW was pregnant with #5, I bought a 13 year old 2wd Suburban with low miles. She still doesn't like the truck, even with leather heated seats, because the minivan spoiled her with "lots of buttons on the steering wheel and doors that I can open from my keychain." The massive size was a complaint at first, but then she got used to it. It does much better on snow and ice, even without the bulky 4wd stuff. The ding on fuel economy seems larger than the mere 3 mpg difference would suggest. The GC got an average of 18mpg, and the 'Burb gets 15mpg with the same driving. That makes it only 16% more expensive to feed, but it has a 44 gallon tank, so it seems much more greedy at the pump even though we fill up about half as often.

    I will never go back to a minivan. The 'burb has so much more room inside and towing capacity. The big, flat hood is a perfect perch for kids at the drive-in movies. I can stand on the roof to load my cargo basket and it is wide enough for tons of bikes or two canoes. I have loaded it up with bags of concrete and the suspension hardly sags. I can casually throw a sheet of plywood in the back, over the 5 car seats without any drama or planning. I do dream of a 3/4 ton 4WD 'Burb someday, but that dream also has DW hooking it up to a snowplow with a kid or two sleeping in car seats, and using it to make some money while I am at work.

    We are currently shopping for a new 26' bunkhouse TT to pull with our trusty 14 year old Burb.
     

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